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Nurses across Canada say patient safety is declining while violence in the workplace is a growing problem.

Anna Junker has the story:

This is the result of a survey of over 2,000 nurses and the report, Enough is Enough[1], released Thursday by the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions[2], outlining the experiences of nurses over the past 12 months. According to CFNU president Linda Silas, this study comes after a national survey[3] on the work and health of nurses released in 2005 by Statistics Canada and Health Canada. In the 2005 survey, nearly 30 per cent of nurses said they were assaulted by a patient and close to 44 per cent received emotional abuse by a patient over the previous 12 months.

Since then, especially in the last two to three years, we re seeing an increase in violent incidents, said Silas.

In the survey released Thursday, 61 per cent of nurses who responded said they had experienced serious problems in the workplace related to violence, including physical assault, bullying, verbal abuse and racial and sexual harassment. Alberta Health Services says it has also seen an increase in the number of incidents of workplace violence and patient safety incidents over the last five years.

What we attribute that to is increased and improved reporting mechanisms, said Sean Chilton, vice-president of collaborative practice, nursing and health professions. It s really important that we increase that culture of reporting by encouraging people to report incidents to us, which allows us to learn and improve. The biggest shock with those numbers, according to Silas, is they went up to 72 per cent for nurses who were under 25 and 60 per cent of the nurses never reported their violent experience.

When you hear that nurses are attacked more often than police officers and correctional officers, and it s not only an anecdotal story, that the facts are behind it, we need more training, we need better staffing, said Silas.

Nurses are also concerned about the safety of patient care. Only 26 per cent of nurses in the survey said the safety of patient care was very safe, whereas 48 per cent said it was somewhat safe.

I really don t want to be hospitalized in a unit where they say 48 per cent of them close to half say it s somewhat safe, said Silas, adding staffing levels are a reason behind the high percentage of somewhat safe nursing units.

The sicker the patients are, the more experienced and educated healthcare professionals you need, and you re not seeing that everywhere. Two-thirds of nurses also reportedly considered leaving their job to work for a different employer or a different occupation and nurses aged 25 to 34 years were the most likely to have contemplated leaving. According to Chilton, AHS has a violence prevention program in place.

We ve been working with our union partners to prevent workplace violence ad encourage nurses to report as well as provide support to people when violence happens, said Chilton. We re also looking at how to best provide training to prevent, intervene or de-escalate a crisis situation safely.

Silas would like to see changes made to the system, including better staffing as well as speculating whether security guards or a security system should be implemented.

How do we support nurses and healthcare workers that will put in complaints of being attacked at work, by family, patients or co-workers, how do we balance that? said Silas.

The key is bringing back safety in our healthcare workplaces.

On Twitter: @JunkerAnna[5]


  1. ^ Enough is Enough (
  2. ^ Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (
  3. ^ national survey (
  4. ^

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